Schaper: Clay Pell for RI Gov: Doesn’t Ring a Bell
Friday, February 07, 2014
Now a third name just stepped into the race last month, and already voices are calling on whether he can be the outlier to win the Democratic primary and the governorship.
"[U]nions are out to pummel Gina; Taveras going nowhere; Clay will skate home with this."
So, who is Pell, and how well will he run for the office?
A political outsider with an insider legacy behind him, Pell was born in Arizona , but visited Rhode Island every summer. Harvard educated, he knows his state, but more importantly his grandfather’s legacy: US Senator Claiborne Pell (1918-2009). Grandson Clay has so much to draw from. Grandpa was also born out of state (NYC), lived in Newport, studied Ivy League, joined the US Coast Guard. Unlike his grandson, Claiborne worked in government, with stints in diplomatic relations. When he ran for US Senate in 1960 (the same year as Ted Kennedy: immoral not crazy), Democrat John F. Kennedy called Pell “unwinnable”, but he won six times to represent Rhode Island.
And Grandpa was strange (what man running for office in New England isn’t?) Wearing threadbare suits and driving old cars, despite his immense wealth, and dabbling in the paranormal, he sounds more like a softer retread of California Governor Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown. A patrician who connected with the plebian Providentials, and the husband of a wealthy heiress, Pell spoke the languages of the people, even if his politics then and now didn’t make much sense. He also believed in aliens. Mr. Spock goes to Washington?
As Senator, Grandpa Pell chaired the Foreign Relations Committee (read his thoughts on Iran-Contra), but he is best known for his ongoing legacy, the Pell Grant. Providing direct aid to low-income college students, these federal subsidies have inadvertently made college all the more unaffordable for today’s college students. More money in the system, means more spending, higher tuition, debt, and on and on. Perhaps Grandson Pell should revisit this unpleasant consequence of Grandpa’s legacy.
But I digress. I’m writing about the younger, still-alive Clay Pell, the 2014 gubernatorial candidate for Rhode Island.
People Magazine mentioned the newly-announced candidate very nicely: “The husband of Michelle Kwan.” She graced the ice and Danced with the Stars. And Clay? Every good man has a strong woman standing behind him, but what can one say when the only reason people know you has to do with your grandfather or your wife? At least the national weekly didn’t blast him for selling out his state to Wall Street (General Treasurer Raimondo was a big hit with National Review, but Rolling Stone rolled all over her pension reforms last year). Perhaps Michelle could ring Clay’s bell with voters, and be the powerful first lady.
The Washington Post also identified Pell as “the husband of”, but showcased his announcement for governor. How does he plan to get elected?
"Over the past few months, I have traveled across our state. . ."
Stop there. That’s not accomplishing much, Clay. Why not talk about why so many taxpayers and small businesses are leaving the state, not to return?
"I decided to run for governor because I believe that I can restore hope and economic growth in our state."
Been there, done that. Yeah, yeah, “Hope” is the motto of the Ocean State. Very clever (*yawn*). . .
After a extended montage of his US Coast Guard days, Clay continues:
"There are no easy ways to create jobs and get Rhode Island’s economy back on track."
No kidding. Did Clay use Grandpa’s ESP skills to figure that one out?
"But we can begin by getting rid of the cronyism and insider politics that have held back our state economy."
He won’t take money from PACs or lobbyists. Sounds moral. But where did Pell get his well of money? From his family fortune, of course. Does he think that he can buy this election?
Then more of the obvious:
"While many of you may not know me. . ."
Yep. Then the touching scenes of Grandpa Pell and Grandson playing games, and then Claiborne sailing. . . Awww.
But this line was too much not to ignore:
"Hope is the motto of our state. And that motto is probably inspired by a verse from the Bible. We have hope as an anchor for the soul."
Probably? Hebrews 6:19, to be exact, but Providence has been rated the least Bible-minded city in the Union, so candidate Clay’s ignorance on the subject should come as no surprise. But as for governing, besides a familiar name and fame (Grandpa and the college grants), there’s not much about Clay Pell that rings a bell. Will he resonate with voters? At least Anita Ward rose to fame on more than a name.
Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance.
10 Questions Pell Has to Answer When Running for Gov of RI
10. Pell's Base?
Where is Pell’s voter base going to come from?
Seriously – Another No Private Sector Experience Governor?
8. Decision making
Has he ever had to make an executive decision?
7. Ordinary RIers
Can Pell connect to Rhode Islanders?
Progressives and Unions are in Love with Pell, is that good for RI?
5. Kwan Factor
Is he more than Michelle Kwan’s husband?
4. Claiborne Factor
Is he more than Claiborne Pell’s Grandson?
3. GOP Factor
Can Pell beat a Republican?
2. Experience, any?
Does Pell have any experience?
1. Tough Enough?
Is Pell tough enough?
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